In my previous article, I looked at some of the films I’ve enjoyed most over the last few months in the build-up to Christmas, but I simply couldn’t cover every brilliant Christmas film in just one article. In truth, doing it in two is still impossible, but I thought in this article, I’d look more specifically at my favourite Christmas movie musicals. Nothing gets people in the mood for festivities and jolliness like a good sing along, and the films we’ll look at now all have soundtracks that are simply irresistible to join in with!
A good story for children would be ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’, which is based around the simple morals of kindness and joy that surround the Christmas holiday. All children can take away something from the character of the Grinch, very similar to Scrooge from ‘A Christmas Carol’ in his hate for Christmas, and his journey to learning kindness. The story is also easy to understand and appealing in the fact it is written in rhyme. I prefer the live action film as opposed to the animated TV version, due to Jim Carrey’s vibrant performance and the amazingly intricate prosthetics used, but both have the same heart-warming story. This film also has some great songs to carry the story along, such as ‘Welcome Christmas’ and ‘You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch’. In this story, as ever, Dr. Seuss manages to teach us morals about real life within his extraordinarily fun and imaginative fantasy world. Aside from Jim Carey, Taylor Momsen also shines as Cindy Lou Who in this film and being the highest-grossing Christmas film ever, having made $345,141,403 worldwide, it is certainly not to be missed. It also won the Academy Award for Best Makeup, being nominated for Art Direction and Costume Design too.
In recent years, in the UK at least, a franchise that has risen to popularity is Nativity. There have been 3 films so far each doing relatively well with the family audiences and are about as feel-good as a film can get. They’re extremely funny and cute, and there’s also a unique British-ness to them that I think is rare in Christmas films, with most being rather Americanised. The original tells the story of school teacher Paul Maddens and his teaching assistant Mr. Poppy after a confusion leads the rest of the school to believe that they have arranged for Hollywood producers to come and make a film out of the school nativity. The two then try to keep up with the lie, but problems ensue as it inevitably unravels. The film has a great cast including Martin Freeman, Marc Wootton, Pam Ferris, Ashley Jensen, Jason Watkins and Alan Carr, as well as a host of amazing young child actors. The film unfortunately does suffer from the same critique mentioned about ‘Home Alone’ in the previous article, that it appears to take place in the real world but the situations and action that takes place are vastly exaggerated and very unrealistic. This film perhaps even stretches it further, since particularly in schools, there are far too many regulations that would stop most of this story from taking place, however this did not stop me personally enjoying the film at all and I doubt it would matter to most family audiences either. Also, in my mind, even just the performance at the end of the film really makes it worthwhile.
The third film I really enjoyed this year was interesting for me because it’s loved by many, but I had never had the chance to watch it before. ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’, by Tim Burton has developed a massive following, and I can understand why. It has great songs, composed by Danny Elfman, a distinctive cinematic style, and an interesting and creative storyline. There is much debate over whether it constitutes a Christmas film, since it is also based around Halloween, but in my opinion, the theme of Christmas in it is strong enough that it has to be considered a Christmas film. This may be a film for the slightly older readers, since it’s a little bit more on the scary side, with a variety of ‘monsters’ making up the main characters, but it is animated, perhaps making it slightly more family-oriented. It is hard to critique such an amazing film, but if I had to, all I could come up with is that the stop-motion animation style in the film is slightly less developed than it is today, but I think that this adds to the magic of the film, since the style was quite revolutionary at the time the film was made.
Christmas movies, when done well can be great fun, and really get people in the mood for the holiday, but it can be extremely hard to achieve this end without taking it too far and becoming annoying and hilariously unrealistic, and with such a lot of competition, making a successful Christmas film today may be an extremely hard task. In any case, the use of music, it seems, is rarely harmful to a film’s success, and being a musical fan myself, I always find that Christmas is a great time to enjoy musical films, and more so, a great time to enjoy films alongside family and friends.
Image from: http://forestartscentre.co.uk/UserFiles/Image/Forest%20Arts%20Centre/nat620.jpg